49TH MMFF: Stars,stories, themes of film fest’s first four official entries

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
49TH MMFF: Stars,stories, themes of film fest�s first four official entries
Sharon Cuneta and Alden Richards play the lead roles in A Mother and Son’s Story.

Big names lend their star power to the first four official entries of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) for its 49th edition in December.

During a presscon on Monday at the New MMDA head office in Pasig, the first four entries selected from over two dozen submissions are the family drama A Mother and Son’s Story (Sharon Cuneta and Alden Richards); the horror thriller (K)AMPON (Beauty Gonzalez and Derek Ramsay); the action-fantasy Penduko (Cristine Reyes and Matteo Guidicelli); and the romance-drama Rewind (Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera).

This year’s selection committee is headed by industry stalwart Jesse Ejercito, replacing veteran actress Boots Anson Roa-Rodrigo who begged off this year due to a “conflict of interest” being part of the cast of one of the submissions.

Ejercito was joined by veteran screenwriter and director Roy Iglesias in announcing the entries.

Rewind is topbilled by Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera.

“There were 26 total entries. It’s a record number so far (for script submissions),” said Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) acting chairman and MMFF concurrent chair, lawyer Don Artes.

He said the selection committee had a hard time choosing the first four entries and noted how excited they were because the chosen films were topbilled by some of the industry’s biggest actors.

“Pinakamaganda (these are the best) based on the script. But that doesn’t mean that the others are not good,” Artes said.

Scripts that failed to make the cut will still have a shot at an MMFF slot. The remaining four official entries to complete the MMFF 2023 roster will come from finished film submissions.

“Yung natitira pong apat, pipiliin po (the last four entries) will be chosen based on finished film and final output. So, let’s wait for that,” he reiterated.

Penduko stars Matteo Guidicelli in the title role and Cristine Reyes.

The deadline for the finished film submission is on Sept. 29.

“Makita lang namin yung pelikula kahit hindi tapos na tapos… papayagan po natin ang picture lock na i-submit on Sept. 29.”

“But insofar as these four are concerned, ako po ay satisfied,” he said.

Artes also said that the selection committee adhered to the same criteria that determined the official entries in the previous stagings.

He continued, “We’re not looking for a specific genre but we usually strike a balance (among the entries). That includes our rule of having not more than two movies per genre.”

Derek Ramsay and Beauty Gonzalez lead the cast of K(ampon). Photos from official social media pages of actors, Star Cinema and GMA Sparkle

The December filmfest traditionally opens every Christmas Day, Dec. 25. Here are the themes, storylines and other things to expect from the first four entries, as per MMFF.

A Mother and Son’s Story tells the story of single mom Maricar (Sharon) whose world revolves around her son, Mateo (Alden). But when Mateo decides to relocate to Singapore for career and love, he devises a plan to find a good man for his single mom when he’s gone.

This doesn’t sit well initially with Maricar, but the separation and distance will make her discover her own happiness outside her son. Mateo, on the other hand, realizes that home is where his heart is.

The film is produced by Cineko Productions, Inc., written by Mel Mendoza-del Rosario and directed by Nuel Naval.

K(ampon) is about the childless couple Clark (Derek) and Eileen (Beauty) who after eight years of marriage find a little girl at their doorstep who claims to be the former’s child.

MMDA acting chair and MMFF concurrent chair, lawyer Don Artes, with (from left) MMFF spokesperson Noel Ferrer and selection committee member Roy Iglesias Jr. and chair Jesse Ejercito.

Despite the unexpected situation, Eileen temporarily fosters the child while figuring out the next steps. Clark, on the other hand, investigates the mysterious child’s history. Soon after, the husband and wife suffer from paranoia as strange occurrences start to happen in and around their household — from visions of death and rebirth, to ominous voices and stalkers.

As the child grows more fond of Eileen and vice-versa, Clark must decide between erasing his past to save his marriage or embracing the truth and the demons that come along with it. (K)ampon is produced by Quantum Films, written by Dodo Dayao and directed by King Paliso.

Penduko is the film reboot on the iconic Filipino comic book character, Pedro Penduko (Matteo), the son of a philanthropic faith healer living in the countryside.

Dreaming for a more modern and sophisticated life, Pedro runs away to the city but fails to find the new life he’s yearning for. He gets recruited to join an underground company called Hatinggabi, where people with supernatural gifts like Pedro are formally trained and being sent to heal victims of sorcery for a fee. This newfound job, however, will lead him to an identity crisis that asks the question: Is his destiny to be a healer or a sorcerer?

Penduko is produced by Epik Studios and Sari Sari Network, Inc., and written and directed by Jason Paul Laxamana.

Rewind, starring real-life couple Dingdong and Marian, is about a man who at a certain point in his life feels guilty over his life choices after not being promoted in his job, being estranged from his father and own son, and having a rocky marriage with his wife who eventually dies in a car accident.

One day, he meets a man who offers him a once-in-a-lifetime deal — to rewind his life and correct all his mistakes, including repairing his damaged relationship with his family, but on one condition — he has to die in place of his wife. He believes the man to be Jesus.

With everything to lose and to hope for, John rewinds his life and discovers that the true meaning of happiness comes from the thing he has taken for granted the most.

Rewind is produced by ABS-CBN Film Productions, APT Entertainment and Agosto Dos Pictures, written by Enrico Santos and directed by Mae Czarina Cruz.

Meanwhile, this year’s MMFF is targeting box-office earnings of more than P500M.

“They (cinema owners) are projecting na ma-hi-hit namin yung (that we’re going to hit) P500M and that we will surpass previous earnings na P501M. They are hopeful,” said Artes.

“In fact sila nagsasabi na… ma-hit lang natin yung P500M, okay na kasi ‘di pa naman tayo fully recovered (from the pandemic). We’re still encouraging people to watch films inside theaters.

“But sila yung nagsabi mismo na confident sila. They mentioned a certain percentage… to surpass the previous record.”

Touted this early as the “biggest, most popular and most anticipated” edition, the 49th MMFF is scheduled to run in December until January 2024. It will be hosted by the CAMANAVA (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela) cities.

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